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Murray Bookchin, at 85; proponent of social ecology

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Murray Bookchin, an early proponent of what he described as social ecology, died at home of heart failure early yesterday. He was 85.

Mr. Bookchin long was a proponent of left-leaning libertarian ideas and was among the first people in the early 1960s to promote the then-emerging field of ecology into political debate.

In 1962, he published, under the pseudonym Lewis Herber, ``Our Synthetic Environment," in which he called for alternative energy supplies, among other environmental proposals. In that book, which predated by five months the better-known work ``Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson, Mr. Bookchin introduced the notion of social ecology.

He argued that only a completely free and open society can resolve the problems that confronted the environment.

Mr. Bookchin's views, often well ahead of their time, never got wide play because they were closely linked to his leftist political thought.

Mr. Bookchin was born to Russian immigrant parents in New York City in 1921. He joined the Communist youth organization at age 9, but dropped out a number of years later, disillusioned at what he believed was the authoritarian nature of the movement.

He was a foundry worker and union organizer in New Jersey before joining the US Army. In civilian life, he became an auto worker but left the industry and its labor organization after the General Motors strike of 1946.

He turned to his interest in the environment and writing, publishing more than two dozen books on ecology, history, politics, philosophy, and urban planning.

In Burlington, Mr. Bookchin was instrumental in helping to organize the Green Party. He also cofounded the Institute for Social Ecology in Plainfield in 1971.

Mr. Bookchin leaves his longtime companion, Janet Biehl; a son, Joseph of Burlington; and his former wife and longtime friend, Beatrice; and a daughter, Debbie.

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